His Most Distressing Disguise

His Most Distressing Disguise

It was, of course, Mother Teresa who said it.

“Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

What it means to be contemplative. I want to be contemplative. I think contemplation holds some of the things that are absent in the shallowness we sometimes call worship. We are trying to practice contemplation in our services, at the expense of what has been known as “praise and worship”.

Can I adore Jesus in the lowly appearance of bread? Is that part of making communion holy again? And, if I manage to do it, can that go outside of my experience in a church service and teach me to adore him in other common things? In even distressing things.

Needy people can be distressing. (And I have taken my fair share of other people’s time being needy.)

Right now, I am, we are (woodsEnd) in a phase of having to say “silver and gold have I none”–even though that “none” is pretty comfortable compared to world standards! What I mean is, when someone in need calls, I can’t ‘make it go away’ by throwing money at it. I don’t have that luxury. So, when they called the other night–this family of three–wanting to not sleep in their car on another cold night, I had no way to get a room for them. But I have a building that sits empty a lot of the time. Surely even sleeping in there on the floor is better than in the car.

So they did for a couple of nights. Until they could think a little more clearly and move on to the next stage of their plan.

But my “real work” got disrupted. I needed to send email updates to at least four Committees, trying to remember what happened in those meetings from a week ago. I hadn’t had time to write out the meeting notes. I have been burning the candle at both ends trying to set something up to continue to make my own house payments. It felt like I was being pulled away from very important stuff to tend to things I didn’t have time for. Then, just as this family was getting packed up and on their way, another guy showed up needing somewhere to lay his head. He has a job here starting this afternoon, and won’t get paid for a few weeks. He is sleeping on the concrete floor in our youth room. I have more comfortable spaces at my house, but I also have kids. What do you do? “Whatever you do to the least of these…” echoes in the back of my mind. I’m not sure I want to hear Jesus say that I made him sleep on the concrete floor that night. To his credit, the guy is really grateful, and told me that he won’t even use the heat in the building.

It is distressing in all kinds of ways.

But he insists that he is there. That opportunity to serve Jesus presents itself continually. Jesus in the lowly bread. Jesus in the lowly people.

And, hopefully, Jesus in me.


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